by Hamish Nicol
The South Australia Melges 24 fleet mustered for it's third three day regatta in five weekends on the open waters of the Gulf of St Vincent from Adelaide Sailing Club over the weekend 14/16 December. With Australasian Ranking Series points at hand, it was racing at it's hardest.
Kowabunga sailing at ASC on a much calmer day
Once again PRO Mike Rogers and his team put on seven races for the fleet and once again the fleet revelled in sou' westerly and building sea breezes for some very close racing.
Like so much Melges 24 sailing in Adelaide it was to be a game of centimetres played out at speeds of up to 18kts with all boats now showing improvements even over the last regatta.
Dave Alexander and crew on Kowabunga! picked up 4 bullets and the regatta win on Sunday but by no means did the regatta go all their way. With Robbie Duessen's Red Mist returning to the fray on Saturday racing was to be nip and tuck all the way.
Race one and two saw consistent strength sea breezes in the 13-15kt range. Adrenaline, the winner of the previous two regattas started well by winning the first race with Kowabunga second. These boats exchanging honors in the second race with the rest of the fleet finishing in close order.
Saturday delivered a much different affair with surfers enjoying the breakers each side of the harbour giving a clue to what lay ahead. The sea breeze had arrived early in bright sunshine building on the existing south westerly with 18-22kts being seen and the bonus of a short sea mounting in the tide to the two metre mark. Accompanying the fresher conditions was the return of the official Red Mist crew (ineligible on the Friday night). Upwind was going to be challenging and downwind exhilarating and with Red Mist adding a front runner to the mix all knew it was going to be a strenuous day.
All teams had some serious blasting downwind and Kowabunga! and 'Mist served up the surf masters glamour shots just ahead of the following pack. Indeed Duessen's 'Mist were potentially even better value than their brace of second places and an OCS instead of first. Race 2 saw 'Mist get to the windward mark first but unable to turn with the main strapped on. Having opened the door Kowabunga! snatched the wave. Red Mist will surely eliminate such errors before Geelong. Same time Kowabunga! were similarly quick upwind keeping the pressure on and taking advantage of the openings and sailing flawlessly all day to take Saturday's three bullets. This had been stirring stuff as these two matched each other gybe for gybe in the downwind part of each race. Adrenaline, Gary Shanks' Outrage-us and Jason Ward's Concubine all finishing in close order but none quite matching the victors boat speed uphill in the conditions. A special mention must be made of Ken Abott and his crew on Zinzi. New to the fleet this year the team are now very close to the pace. Ken Abbott declared that the team were going about as fast as any had before sailing any boat of any size. Ken also added his appreciation of the professionalism and promptness of the ASC support team in collecting one of Zinzi's crew 'Splash' who had fallen overboard.
On Saturday evening all knew they had had a serious work-out and declared themselves tired but happy. There is really nothing quite like an Adelaide blow. Sunday was to be a little calmer with Red Mist taking the bullets followed by Outrage-us at finding form to take a brace of seconds.
Kowabunga! had won the overall very handily from a consistent Adrenaline with Red Mist third ruing perhaps Saturday's OCS and unable to recover from not being eligible for racing on Friday.
All the teams admit they still have work before Geelong and are under no illusions as to the challenge ahead. However all agreed that the format of three build up regattas preparing for the Nationals and then Worlds was effective with all fleet members being generous in sharing their learnings and insights.
The 2015 Melges 24 Nationals are being held in Adelaide and interest remains very high in the class, but in the meantime all Australian fleets are readiness for the travel to Geelong.
1st - Kowabunga - Dave Alexander, Dan O'Connell, John Heywood, Mark Wilson, Donna Evans
2nd - Adrenaline - Luke Stephens, Hamish Nicol, Luke Hooking, Ryan Kelly, Matt Pernini
3rd - Red Mist - Robin Deussen, Nick Deussen, Andy Dyer, Matt Hansen, Rachel Paterson